Alum Stays on as TJ Tech Guru
Andrew Hamilton, TJ ’09, is the alum who never left. He graduated from GMU in 2012, but because he worked as a Systems Administrator (Sysadmin) while a student at TJ, helped out in the Tech Office the summer before his senior year and after graduation, and worked part-time while obtaining his undergraduate degree, it seems as if he has been at TJ continuously since arriving as a freshman. It’s no exaggeration to say he has spent the better part of the last decade helping to usher TJ and its technological infrastructure into the 21st century.
Hamilton says that students are shocked when he tells them that he never programmed before high school and never used Linux until his junior year, but he was already a junior when he participated in the Sysadmin understudy program, a program he now leads. As the staff sponsor for the student Sysadmins, Hamilton is responsible for all of the systems they manage, including the Computer Systems Lab workstations, TJ Email, the Intranet, and the TJ webserver. He aims to do little of this work directly; instead he advises and teaches the students how to do the work. He also maintains a set of on-site and off-site backups as a disaster recovery plan.
In addition to his work with the Sysadmins, Hamilton, whose title is Network/Systems Administrator, has a number of daily responsibilities including helping staff and students with access to network resources, troubleshooting network problems such as software crashes or failing hardware, and maintaining the Computer Systems Lab equipment and the school’s content-filtering proxy. He is also a regular presence at all school events being recorded or streamed or where technical assistance is required.
In his “spare time,” Hamilton writes programs and web applications to simplify various school functions. For example, we have him to thank for the school’s user-friendly online course guide and course selector. At most FCPS schools, in contrast, the guide is maintained as a Word document and updated once a year, with course selections submitted on paper and returned to parents via snail mail.
Beginning with the 2014-2015 school year, Hamilton was officially designated Technical Lead for the Jefferson Collaborative Inquiry & Research Network (JCIRN), TJ’s ambitious platform for research collaboration and outreach. With three student assistants helping this summer, he has been hard at work adding features to the platform for roll out in the fall, including video conference “meeting rooms” that will be available for students to reserve for project meetings. His summer team has also been troubleshooting the matching features that help students search for relevant projects and potential collaborators. He also plans to soon add a file synchronization system (similar to Dropbox) so that everyone can easily access and backup their project files.
With just four staff members for 2000 users, the other members of TJ’s Tech Team are similarly busy:
Bryan Phillips, the school’s Technology Support Specialist, is responsible for the upkeep of all IT hardware and faculty laptops and computers. He also has TJ-specific duties maintaining our LOCAL windows network which hosts our student accounts.
Miruna Tecuci, the School Based Technology Specialist, maintains and curates our website and provides support and training to teachers, especially for teacher-specific systems like Blackboard and Gradebooks.
As TJ’s Network Engineer, Pete Morasca maintains our core network infrastructure and interfaces between the County network engineers and the Tech Team. “He is also a repository of TJ and FCPS Network History since he was the one who started it all,” said Hamilton, who was supervised by Morasca when he was a student Sysadmin. “I try to understudy Pete to learn what he knows.”
It’s no mystery why Hamilton never really left TJ. From the start he made himself valuable, and at this point it’s hard to imagine the school functioning without him. But that’s only one side of the story. “The job is very fulfilling,” he said. “I especially enjoy the opportunity to share my love of computers and my knowledge of how to maintain them with students and to watch the students grow and mature. I sometimes joke that I have all the joys of a teaching job without having to create exams or grade essays. I also enjoy the variety of tasks that I get to work on; all of us get to work on everything which keeps the work new and interesting.”